Better Breathing Brings Peak Performance


April 2017 - Click Here to Download the Full Newsletter! pdf icon2

Inhale, exhale, in, out. Breathing is one of the most natural function of our bodies. Or is it? In spite of its importance, many of us have developed shallow and uneven breathing habits. Effective breathing can make a measurable difference in martial arts performance and in every other activity we pursue.
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(Stretching is another opportunity to focus on breathing.)
When you inhale, or breathe in, the air you take in goes through a multi-step filtering process before reaching your lungs. Specialized lung structures extract oxygen and leach it into your bloodstream, where it travels to various oxygen-hungry tissues, such as the brain and the large muscles. This cycle occurs tens of thousands of times each day, unnoticed, until you really push yourself in martial arts class and discover how much work breathing can be.
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(Correct breathing during sparring is important!)
With additional exertion, the process picks up speed trying to accommodate the body’s increased demand for oxygen and blood. The heart pumps faster, attempting to meet the demands of muscles engaged in high activity for oxygenated blood and the removal of waste carbon dioxide.
Regular deep breathing can allow the development of greater stamina, strength and mobility as well as greater mental focus, all of which are hallmarks of excellence in martial arts, but how can we achieve this? The first step to improving our ability to breathe involves exhaling strongly with every punch, block or kick that we execute in class.
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(When grappling an opponent the mindset is to “breathe and improve your position.)
Step two is to notice our inhalation and to allow our stomach to ex-tend as we breathe in. Your lungs will fill with air just as usual, but your diaphragm, the muscle mainly involved in breathing, will work differently from normal. This “belly breathing” is natural for babies and we need to rediscover this lost treasure. As you learn to breathe through all of your techniques in every class, you must next learn to take this skill into your life. Start by consciously exhaling when-ever you perform an action of exertion. As you pull open a car door, lift a bag of groceries, kick a soccer ball or hit a golf ball, breathe out. Let the inhalation that follows fill your belly. Once you are able to “remember yourself” throughout the day and maintain your active “belly breathing”, start to check yourself out when you first awaken in the morning. Are you “belly breathing”? If so, you are off to a good start. Learning to breathe correctly will keep you healthy and more aware.

Shihan Robert H. Mason © 2017